[INDOLOGY] query on Sāṃkhya

Matthew Kapstein mkapstei at uchicago.edu
Mon May 27 22:20:02 UTC 2019

Dear Indological colleagues,

One of the peculiarities of Sāṃkhya thought is its unusual theory of "evolution" (though it might better be termed "emanation") which proceeds from the subtle modifications of the mūlaprakṛti to those that are increasingly coarse, namely the organs of sense and of action, and finally to their physical objects. This seems a very odd evolutionary path when we first encounter it and I am wondering if there has been any work that seeks to explain just why Sāṃkhya adopted what to us may seem a remarkably counter-intuitive framework. I do have my own theory about this, but I would not want to publish it if someone else has already come up with a similar idea. I would therefore be grateful for any suggestions you may have concerning scholarship that seeks to explain just why it is that Sāṃkhya proceeds from top to bottom, as it were, rather than the other way around.

with thanks in advance for your advice about this,


Matthew Kapstein
Directeur d'études,
Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes

Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies,
The University of Chicago

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